The bouncer at the centre of the Mike Tindall "mystery blonde" scandal, Jonathan Dixon, has been charged with accessing a computer for dishonest purposes under section 249 of the Crimes Act 1961 (Act), and if convicted, he could face a jail term of up to seven years. According to media reports, Mr Dixon allegedly copied CCTV footage from the Altitude Bar (where Mr Tindall was spotted holding hands and kissing a blonde woman) onto a USB stick and then released the files to a news agency.
The key elements of section 249 are accessing a "computer system" "dishonestly or by deception" and either:
- Obtaining, or intending to obtain, some kind of benefit, or
- Causing, or intending to cause, some loss to another person.
It appears that the "computer system" Mr Dixon accessed was the bar's CCTV system and assuming this was not authorised, this is likely to constitute dishonesty or deception. The interesting question is what "benefit" or "loss" was intended or caused by the release of the footage.
Apparently, Mr Dixon was not paid for the footage and there has been no mention in media reports of Mr Dixon obtaining any other benefit because of the scandal. It may be that the "loss" intended or caused was damage to Mr Tindall's reputation. However, most media reports suggest that by releasing the footage, Mr Dixon intended to thwart English hopes for a Rugby World Cup victory.
Although England's Rugby World Cup exit was no doubt devastating to the English team and its fans, whether loss of a sports tournament counts as "loss" in terms of the Act is a novel question. We will be interested to see if this is the "loss" that the Crown alleges and if it is, how the Court addresses this point.